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Virginia 17, Syracuse 16: Orange WLAX outhustled in defeat

Virginia wins the draw control battle to hand SU their first loss of the season.

2014 NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Championship Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This week, the No. 5/7 Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team (3-1) has/had three big games in rapid succession. They play two top five teams on Wednesday and Sunday against Florida and Maryland respectively. This made the first game against No. 9/11 Virginia (5-0) an almost must-win situation in order to get some momentum. However, the Hoos broke a nine game losing streak to SU on Sunday afternoon in Charlottesville, outlasting the Orange 17-16.

The game started out well enough for SU, which jumped out to a 3-1 lead 10 minutes in on a pair of Riley Donahue goals with Sam Swart contributing shortly after. A string of several Virginia goals in a little over a minute, thanks to a dominant stretch in the draw circle, erased the Orange lead and put the Hoos up 4-3 with a little over 14 minutes left in the half. Syracuse would respond and score five goals in as many minutes to take an 8-4 lead with exactly five minutes left on the clock and threatened to blow the game wide open. The Cavaliers would use their draw advantage once again to strike quickly, scoring four goals in a little over a minute to tie the game at 8 with 2:22 left. The Orange would answer the game of runs once again in the waning moments, scoring a pair of goals to take a 10-8 lead into the break.

After trading goals at the beginning of the second half, Virginia went on another run over four minutes long to turn an 11-9 SU lead to a 13-11 Cavalier advantage with 23:06 left to play. Syracuse would come back and tie it three times over the next 15 minutes, but could not get ahead. Mary Rahal’s man-up goal at the 7:03 mark would tie the game at 15, but some missed opportunities for the Orange on the offensive end enabled the Cavaliers to keep the game even. Once again, the Hoos’ draw circle dominance enabled them to control the tempo and score a pair of goals to take a 17-15 lead with just 2:18 left.

However, the Orange weren’t out of it yet and got the ensuing draw control. Emily Hawryschuk scored with just 1:18 left to cut the lead to 17-16. Syracuse had one last opportunity to tie the game when Virginia’s Kasey Behr drew a yellow card on Hawryschuk’s goal. This meant that SU would have a man-up situation (or at least until Syracuse scored) for the rest of the game and a free draw control. However, the Orange turned the ball over with around a minute left when an errant pass from Hawryschuk to Neena Merola saw the ball bounce and roll to the restraining line. Although Syracuse recovered it just short of the line, they were forced to give it up when SU defender Mia DiBello inadvertently put half of her foot over the line in anticipation of picking up the ground ball as it dribbled towards her. Virginia gained possession and ran out the clock.

The Turning Point

Virginia’s Maggie Jackson won the opening draw control of the second half which enabled fellow teammate Behr to score just 15 seconds in. Although Hawryschuk would answer on the other end a couple of minutes later to push SU’s lead back to 11-9, Jackson started a string of five straight Cavalier draw controls that would lead them to their third lead of the day at 12-11. The Orange would tie the game up three times after this, but this early dominance in the draw circle really set the tempo for the rest of the way and momentum clearly swung over to Virginia.


Virginia outshot Syracuse 36-25 in general and 22-18 on goal. Both teams had 15 turnovers apiece while the Cavaliers wound up with a slight edge in ground balls 17-15. SU was 15-18 on clears to Virginia’s 11-13. The Orange went 4-4 on free positions today, while the Hoos’ converted 5-8.

Syracuse had a half dozen players who found the back of the net. Swart and Hawryschuk led the Orange offense with four goals each. Donahue finished with four points (2 goals, 2 assists). Rahal had three goals while Nicole Levy had three points (2 goals and an assist). Alie Jimerson had a pair of assists, Merola had a goal while Taylor Gait, Molly Carter and Cara Quimby all finished with an assist each.

Kerry Defliese had one ground ball and three caused turnovers (Note: the stats say Morgan Widner had one, but looking at the game footage, it was clearly Defliese who got it. I think they confused her jersey number 7 with Widner’s 2. In any event, it would be impossible for Widner to get that because she did not play due to an ACL injury against Albany), Ella Simkins had a pair of ground balls and caused turnovers each (and led SU with four draw controls), DiBello and Rahal had two ground balls and a caused turnover each. Asa Goldstock had a rough day with just five saves for just a roughly 23% save percentage and added three ground balls plus a caused turnover.


Levy continues to get the highlight for SU and has fantastic field awareness to pull off the shots she does. This time it was her goal at the 6:50 mark of the 1st half that put SU up 6-4. Jimerson swung around the left side of cage and passed it off to Levy. Levy cut across from left to right in front of the goal while Virginia defender Allison Shields covered her tightly in front. Levy took Jimerson’s pass and pitched it behind her right shoulder past unsuspecting Cavalier goalie Rachel Vander Kolk for the goal.

Big Factors

On the Virginia side, Behr and Jackson caused havoc all over the field. The duo would get 13 of Cavaliers’ 20 draw controls (more on this below), scored seven goals between them, six ground balls and three caused turnovers. Their presence on the field was one of the differences in SU’s loss on Sunday.

Draw Controls: If there was a concern going into this game, it was in this category. SU was -3 in draw controls after their first three games (48-51 and that includes a dismal 14-19 performance against a winless Albany team) and while that is not a problem in and of itself, that ratio was against probably the easiest part of SU’s schedule against three teams who have a combined record of 5-8. Widner, who was the primary draw control specialist, is out for the season with an ACL tear that happened late in the first half of the Albany game. Julie Cross, who was the backup specialist and has seen some extensive time this year has taken over those duties. Cross was averaging four draws a game going into Sunday and had three against Virginia.

However, the Cavaliers dominated the draw control circle all day long and ended up with a 20-14 advantage for the day. This was a critical difference between SU winning and losing this game. The Cavaliers were able to string three or four draw controls at a time and cashed in most of them, which also led to the Orange offense just looking on helplessly as the Hoos relentlessly scored goal after goal over an Syracuse defense that was under tremendous pressure for much of the contest. Virginia’s Behr, who took the draw controls opposite Cross, generally won the direct ones, while SU’s wings were often outhustled by the Cavaliers. Given the fact that Syracuse’s next two opponents this week are against two top five teams in Florida and Maryland, this concern has now become a major problem. If the Orange can’t lock these draw controls down, they are going to be in a heap of trouble the rest of the way.

Yellow Cards: Syracuse did a decent job in the first two games, getting just three total against UConn and Oregon. However, the dreaded yellow card problem is rearing it’s ugly head once again for the ‘Cuse with four each against Albany and Virginia. The Cavaliers went perfect in all four man-up opportunities on the day, which did not help the situation for the Orange. Conversely, SU did score on three of the four man up opportunities on Sunday.

Next Up

It does not get any easier for Syracuse, who come back home to face no.4/6 Florida on Wednesday afternoon at the Dome. The Gators are coming off an impressive 17-10 win over no.3/3 North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Game time is at 2pm. Florida is 4-1 with their lone loss coming to then top-ranked Maryland, 16-14.